By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
CLOVIS — Tanner Fickling took the handoff from quarterback Devin Sweet and appeared startled for a moment.
With nothing but open spaces in front of him, the Clovis High senior fullback was off to the races for a 69-yard touchdown on the game’s second play from scrimmage, sending the Wildcats on their way to a 42-6 victory over Las Cruces High in a first-round Class 5A playoff game on Friday night at Leon Williams Stadium.
Ficking pretty much had a career-night in the first quarter, gaining 209 yards while scoring on runs of 69, 65 and 75 yards.
The Cats (10-1), winners of 10 in row, scored on all six full possessions and were in control in cruising into a quarterfinal match at home next weekend against either Manzano or Sandia, who play today in Albuquerque.
The only Clovis possession of more than three plays came on its last scoring march — six plays, 57 yards.
Ficking had never had a 100-yard rushing game before, but finished with six carries for 237 yards. He also caught Sweet’s only pass of the game for 38 yards as Clovis rolled up 447 total yards on just 18 plays from scrimmage.
“It was just one of those games,” Fickling said. “Our offensive line did an awesome, awesome job. I give them all the props.
“We knew they were going to be keying on Brian (Mead) and Rishard (Matthews). We just put them on one side of the field and I ran to the other, and it worked out for me tonight.”
Matthews carried an end-around 50 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, while Mead had scoring runs of 10 and 73 yards in the second half and finished with 107 yards on seven carries.
While the Bulldawgs (3-8) controlled the ball, running 71 plays from scrimmage, they didn’t break through for a score until the final minute when quarterback K.B. Davies hit wide receiver Jeremy Gonzales on a fourth-and-goal, 4-yard scoring pass.
Las Cruces coach Jim Miller gave Clovis all the credit, adding that the Cats had improved considerably since the teams met in a preseason scrimmage in mid-August.
“We knew they were going to run the counter (plays), but we just couldn’t step up and stop it,” Miller said. “Big plays have killed us all year long. They have a big offensive line, and they did a good job with their schemes.”
Meantime, the Cats were determined to prevent big plays by the Bulldawgs.
“The biggest thing we did this week, and last week (in a 42-6 win over Carlsbad), was we were physical,” Cats defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said. “When you’re physical, good things are going to happen, and I thought we did a good job of hitting them.”
The Bulldawgs finished with 257 total yards, but never seriously threatened the Clovis end zone until the end.
“Everything just snowballed,” Miller said. “We’d get some first downs, and then we’d get penalties. It’d take us 12 plays to get inside the 20.”
Davies, a senior, completed 14 of 25 passes for 146 yards, but came under more and more pressure from the Clovis front as the game went on. The Cats sacked Davies five times for losses totaling 34 yards, with senior tackle Randy Cerda getting three of the sacks and sharing another one with Michael Cohen.
“We’re playing better every week,” Cerda said. “We just try to work hard in practice. (Having an early lead) takes a lot of pressure off.”
Senior Chris Cordova caught eight passes for 79 yards for the Bulldawgs.